Digital Footprint – Digital Estate Planning
In recent years, the need to consider your digital assets has really become a thing as for most people they are now a significant asset. Like physical possessions, when you die you leave behind a digital presence and the potential for your loved ones to inherit your Digital Assets.
An example illustrating the benefits of Digital Estate Planning occurred in 2005 in the USA. A mum of a 22-year-old male who had tragically lost his life in a motorbike accident, wished to access his Facebook account so that she could view and save his images and memories. When she contacted Facebook, this request was denied.
Many companies will argue that different laws, privacy policies, terms and conditions of use and other regulatory company policies prohibit them from sharing someone’s personal information including usernames and passwords (even if it is specified in a Last Will & Testament that they wish to share this information). Some company policies go further and specify that they will delete the accounts of those who have passed away. This often causes much distress to loved ones.
Thankfully, rules are changing, conversations are being had and law makers are thinking about ways in which to help loved ones to manage the growing digital asset pools that most of us fill up during our lifetime. For example, Facebook memorialises accounts using the legacy feature. Until laws have been passed around the globe, it is only wise to ensure that when you are planning your estate you include not only your physical assets but also your digital assets.
Results from a survey conducted by TellThem4Me® in January 2021 revealed that 46% of respondents had not informed their loved ones of their passwords to email, social media and other online accounts and a further 54% had not written down their banking details.
What does your Digital Estate refer to?
Digital Estate refers to your digital media and your right to access it. Digital Assets are different to your physical assets which you will have provided instructions for in your Last Will & Testament.
If you decide that you wish to work on your planning for your Digital Estate, then you will most likely nominate a person(s) who will become your data heirs. This is the person(s) whom you wish to leave your digital assets to whether legally or informally. If you have a TellThem4Me® membership, this may also be one or more of your Nominees.
What are Digital Assets?
Your Digital Estate is made up of digital assets which can be stored online and also includes personal devices on which your Digital Assets are stored such as, mobile phones, tablets, PC’s, and portable storage devices.
Digital Assets can include:
- Online bank and household utility accounts
- Online accounts for finances such as Afterpay® and PayPal®
- Online stores and shopping such as eBay®
- Loyalty cards and memberships
- Domain names and websites you have purchased or built
- Any intellectual property you own such as trademarks and materials subject to copyright
- Share trading accounts
- Cryptocurrency accounts
- Content on government websites such as Health and Tax records
- Personal, financial and health records
- Electronically stored videos and images
- Email accounts
- Social Media accounts and your digital assets stored there
- Gaming accounts
- Online storage accounts and your digital assets stored there
- Online audiobooks, music and movies that you have purchased
- Electronically stored images, videos, voice clips and documents
Why should I be concerned about Digital Estate Planning and my Digital Assets?
Digital Estate Planning is as important as making your Will. By being organised, your loved ones will not need to worry about trying to work out what Digital Assets you have and what needs to be done with them when you are unable to communicate with them.
What are my options with regards to Digital Estate planning?
Currently there are no specific laws regulating what you can and cannot do and there is nothing stopping you from just telling your loved ones your passwords for all of your accounts.
Another way is to sign up for a TellThem4Me® membership which will give you access to the members only ‘My Digital Footprint’ section and a paper based ‘My Digital Footprint’ Password book which will be sent as part of your membership pack. Alternatively, you may choose to have your own DIY Digital Estate Plan and filing system at home, pay for access to a password vault or employ digital inheritance services.
How can a TellThem4Me® membership help me with my Digital Estate planning?
A TellThem4Me® membership helps you with your Digital Estate Planning in two ways, allowing you to communicate important information for a time when you can’t. Firstly, the ‘My Digital Footprint’ booklet you receive as part of your Membership allows you to store passwords for your own use saving you the hassle of trying to remember them. Secondly, the ‘My Digital Footprint’ members only section which you access from your dashboard will provide information to your Nominees about the websites and mobile apps that you access. Please note: For security reasons, passwords should not be stored in your dashboard.
What is DIY Digital Estate Planning?
Depending upon where you live in the world, Digital Estate Planning may look different especially if you wish to make your plan legally binding.
You may have stored Digital Assets in a number of places:
- Storage devices (on your devices or within your computer)
- Cloud storage
- Specific photo storage platforms
- On social media sites
- Often when Digital estate planning, people will sit down and identify all of their digital assets by making a list and:
- Noting the website or location of each asset
- Noting your username (include website and username and type of asset)
- Noting the type of asset
- Deciding where you would like each of your assets to go or who you would like to give access to
Many people choose to download copies of all of their digital assets (where possible) so that they can make backup copies, just in case.
What types of passwords are the best?
The risk of other people finding out your password rarely comes from people you know, and hackers are becoming more and more experienced and expert at gaining illegal access to people’s digital lives. You can never make your passwords 100% safe but companies will usually include the following types of tips when you first create an account.
Obviously, the more secure your password is, the more complex it is and the harder it is to remember. People with these types of passwords, are really forced to pay for a digital vault or make a note of them somewhere which generally goes against the published teams of use for a business.
Best practice in setting up the ‘hardest to hack’ passwords often suggests that:
- Passwords should be changed often
- You should have different passwords for different sites
- You should not worry about how long it is (some sites suggest 10 or more characters)
- You should use a mix of upper- and lower-case letters
- You should use at least one symbol or number
- You should not link your password to any personal information
What happens if I tell my loved ones the passwords to my Digital Estate?
This is a personal choice that you make and ultimately (unless you specify otherwise with clear instructions) your loved ones will make the decision as to what they do with your digital estate when you are gone.
Some companies may have their own policies in place with regards to accessing digital information for a loved one when they have passed away, others may not but this is something that is changing all of the time and so it is always best to check with individual company policy